The Naked Jungle 1954 – All those Ants !!!

This was a big colour picture made in 1954 and directed by Byron Haskin – one of my favourites – He certainly knew what he was doing and was always able to deliver. I have written before that when Walt Disney came to England to film Treasure Island in 1950 he turned to Byron Haskin who brought in a great movie and because it was Disney’s very first venture away from animation it was vital that he did. It set them up to move forward – although surprisingly Walt turned to a then relatively unknown young director Ken Annakin for The Story of Robin Hood 1952 made in England at Denham and up to that time THE most expensive film ever made here – and it showed !  It was a sumptuous and expensive production that combined so many top technicians including Peter Ellenshaw, Carmen Dillon and Guy Green who supervised the stunning Technicolor production.   Ken Annakin was really made after he had a success with this one on a world scale.

Above – Byron Haskin and George Pal ( and others ) in discussion

Coming back to The Naked Jungle though the film is set in Peru and stars Charlton Heston and Eleanor Parker and tells the story of an attack of army ants on a cocoa plantation.  The film  was based on the short story by Carl Stephenson.

Eleanor Parker who had top billing in this film plays a woman from New Orleans who  arrives at a cocoa  plantation in Peru to meet her new husband, plantation owner Christopher Leiningen played by Chalton Heston who she has married by proxy and has never met.

Leiningen is cold and remote to her, rebuffing all her attempts to make friends with him. She’s beautiful, independent, and arrives ready to be his stalwart helpmate but  no one it seems has told him she is a widow. He rejects her.

As she awaits the boat to take her back to the US.A.  they learn that legions of army ants – the Marabunta  – are on the move and will strike in a few days’ time. Leiningen refuses to give up the home he fought so hard to create and so  instead of evacuating,  he resolves to make a stand against the army of ants.   Joanna joins the fight to save the plantation and  so the film is set up for this final showdown.

 Ants everywhere – how did they do that in 1954 I wonder.


Above – The best effects sequence in the film – Charlton Heston on the run as an enormous tidal wave from the blown dam heads his way. Several brilliantly choreographed tricks were employed in this terrific sequence – the first shown above is a straight forward though perfectly matched split screen of Heston in dug out trench and Jan Domelas‘ sprawling matte painting dominating the shot.

Also cast in the film is William Conrad later to achieve TV fame as Frank Cannon.

I think this comment on one of the sites is interesting:-

THE NAKED JUNGLE is based on Carl Stephenson’s story “Leiningen Vs The Ants.” There was at least one excellent radio adaptation in which William Conrad (who has a supporting role in this film) played Leiningen. The first half of this screen adaptation is pretty ordinary mainly focusing on the romantic problems of Heston and his mail order bride Eleanor Parker.  

However when the ants arrive  this film really takes off.    One scene where the ants devour a drunk down to his bones must have looked pretty shocking in 1954.

 The film was reasonably successful and was actually re-released in 1960.

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